The election of Barack Obama to America’s highest office — while stirring political activism in a new multiracial generation — it has also galvanized those of the opposite ilk. Not only has the xenophobic and often racist Tea Party come to the fore, but Obama’s ascendance has also brought Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and seemingly every wing of the white-nationalist movement in from the fringes.
Their rhetoric reads as such: If a Black man can get elected why not a white supremacist? It’s a question being asked by a growing list of white-power candidates from around the country. This new crop of bigots—some blatant, others more nuanced—characterize America’s collection of racist politicians.
We scanned the spectrum to offers a short list of legislators and officials whose bigoted comments and/or allegiance to racist organizations shed light the current state of political bigotry.
David Duke may be the most unabashed racist bigot to make a name in American politics. A self-described “racial realist,” Duke was the former Grand Wizard of the Louisiana-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which he founded in 1974. A well-groomed and professional Klansman who wore a business suit instead of the Klan’s traditional white robes, Duke entered politics in 1975 when he ran for the Louisiana State Senate as a Democrat. After his unsuccessful Senate campaign and later an aborted presidential run, Duke formed the National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP) to shed himself of the Klan tag. In 1988, Duke changed his political affiliation for Democrat to Republican. A year later, he mounted a successful run in the special election for a vacated Louisiana House seat. Duke served in Congress from 1990 to 1992. Duke’s legacy will forever be marked by his stance against both legal and illegal immigration, his support of Holocaust deniers, his labeling of the Ku Klux Kan as “pro-white” rather than anti-Black. Earlier this year, Duke announced that he is considering running in the 2012 presidential election.
Mauch, a former head of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, proved the present day political clout of white supremacists, winning a seat last year in the Arkansas House of Representatives. Never one to back away from his white supremacist views, Mauch declared the Confederate flag a symbol of Jesus Christ, and has even said he believes Abraham Lincoln did not follow the Constitution. As late as 2005, Mauch was listed as the chairman of an Arkansas chapter of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate organization that advocates for the second secession of the south and for a society dominated by white rule.
3. Mississippi State Rep. John Moore
Elected to the House of Representative in, John Moore has called civil rights a “philosophical idea” about “one group of people,” and has advocated against it a bill to make teaching civil rights mandatory in Mississippi schools. Moore has also given speeches at various rally sponsored by the Council of Conservative Christians, a group that has worked hard to deny its racist sentiments, but who the Republican National Committee has openly condemned in 1999 and that the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as a crudely white supremacist group whose website has run pictures comparing pop singer Michael Jackson to an ape and referred to blacks as “a retrograde species of humanity.” Moore has defended his affiliation with the group saying he felt “very comfortable” meeting with the group’s members.
4. Minnesota State Rep. Michele Bachmann
Although Bachmann has not been linked to any white supremacist groups, she’s among a new crop of political bigots who blur the line between blatant racists and those who understand the art of concealing their ideologies. Despite not being an unabashed bigot, Bachmann’s Tea Party affiliation, the party’s questionable record on race and numerous racial gaffes have prompted many to see her as a racist conservative. Earlier this year Bachmann endorsed a pledge that claimed Black families were better off during slavery. She also railed against a government settlement paid to Black framers, who claimed the federal government discriminated against them for decades. In another instance she claimed, “Not are cultures are equal, not all values all equal.” And she consistently panders to the racially based economic fears saying America might suffer conditions comparable to Africa. Overlooking a number of suffering economies, Bachmann said we may be the next ‘Zimbabwe.”
Like Bachmann, Rick Perry is an ambiguous bigots whose records and affiliations are not blatant enough to call him racist, yet the racist tone of his politics straddles the line. Just recently, Perry came under fire after it was learned that his family’s leased hunting compound in West Texas was named “Niggerhead Ranch.” Perry’s racist tag also has much to do with his relationship with Karl Rove, whose political mentor was Lee Atwater — the master of Southern racial politics known infamously for crafting the 1988 Willie Horton attack ad on the Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. The Perry-Rove connection also draws racist claims as Rove has become known for his part in what many call a targeted effort to eliminate thousands of votes among black and elderly voters in the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Perry also openly embraced and defended the Confederate flag when the NAACP campaigned to remove the flag from statehouses and other government buildings across the South. Then lieutenant governor of Texas, Perry said the flags should not be removed and that Texans “should never forget our history.”